2nd Sunday B Advent John the Baptist
The figure of John the Baptist both this Sunday and next has the lion’s share of Advent images. He called on people to repent and change course because a new and different kingdom was at hand. From Christ’s perspective, the empires of the Caesars, characterised by war, violence, military conquest and systemic injustice could never have a future because their power was man made. Marked by lust for power and fascination with affluence, the kingdoms of the world would be in conflict with a new ‘kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace’ that Jesus had come to offer (1).
It’s not for nothing that Mark’s gospel is symbolised by the image of a lion. Lions take no prisoners and Mark throws down the gauntlet with his opening declaration: ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.’ The term ‘gospel’ was, in ancient pre-Christian times, a public announcement that a life changing event was about to happen. ‘Mark’s Gospel is a book about a regime change – about a new reign being inaugurated,’ writes Rowan Williams (2). This announcement would not have pleased the authorities.
People were tired of brutal Roman ways and the fake attention of their own religious leaders. Many went to the wilderness to hear John the Baptist and make a fresh start by being baptised in the Jordan. There they met with other like minded people. Their lives were empty and they wanted to know what they had to do to get a LIFE. John promised them somebody who would baptise them with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would lead believers to lives of ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (3).
Jesus came to bring ‘good news to the poor, liberty to captives, new sight to the blind and freedom to the downtrodden’ (3). The way of life he preached was new and markedly different from what people were used to. The kingdom and its new way of life would be that of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (4). The Spirit of God continues to move among us, leading us from the print on the page to encountering the Word of God, changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and transforming us into the Body of Christ sent out to make a difference in people’s lives.
Fr. QQ – 12/4/2020
(1) Preface for the Solemnity of Christ the King
(2) Rowan Williams, MEETING GOD IN MARK, pp.6-9
(3) St Paul, GALATIANS, 5, 22-23
(4) Matthew Ch 5-7